The Monday Media Diet with Nathaniel Ru

On funk records, Remain in Love, and newsstands

Nathaniel Ru (NR) is a friend (and reader) of WITI and the co-founder of Sweetgreen. We loved their recent rebrand, as well as Naomi Osaka collaborations, and asked him to share what he’s paying attention to lately. Have a great week. -Colin (CJN) 

Tell us about yourself.

I’m Nathaniel, and I grew up loving food and music.  I’m half Mexican, half Chinese - born and raised in Los Angeles.  I went to college in DC and met two friends who are now my business partners (and still friends).  Two months after graduating, we started sweetgreen and the three of us have been working together for the last 15 years.  All of our wives joke that we prepared each other for marriage given how much time we’ve spent together. 

Today, I lead all things brand, creative and social impact at sweetgreen.  We’re on a mission to create a healthier alternative to fast-food.

Describe your media diet. 

I get most of my daily news between Twitter, LinkedIn, and a slew of not-so-serious group chats that include friends, creatives, and family.  I try to stay off all other social media.  Specific to marketing, I subscribe to the New Consumer, Marketing Brew, Food and Tech Connect and the Sociology of Business. I also tend to get lost on the NYTCooking app digging for baking recipes.  On the weekends I’ll find a profile in the New Yorker or dive into my Kindle.  Podcasts normally on rotation are - How Long Gone with Jason and Chris, Are We On Air? and Broken Record.  

In quarantine, I signed up for the Village Vanguard live streams which have fantastic sound quality and are my go-to while reading or working. 

What’s the last great book you read?

Remain in Love - Chris Frantz.  A memoir from the drummer of the Talking Heads. What’s most impressive is how he describes life on tour with such detail, down to the meals eaten, clothes worn and songs played.  The island lifestyle they created while recording in the Caribbean was especially good! 

What are you reading now?

The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood - Sam Wasson.  A fascinating dive into old Hollywood following the lives of Jack Nicholson, Robert Evans, Roman Polanski, and more.  If you haven’t seen the Kid Stays in the Picture, you can start there.

What’s your reading strategy when you pick up a print copy of your favorite publication?

Head to my local newsstand in Larchmont Village and work through as many magazines as possible.  

Who should everyone be reading that they’re not?

Creativity Inc. - Ed Catmull.  The story of Pixar and the creative process behind all of their work.  

What is the best non-famous app you love on your phone? 

Soundcloud.  I guess it’s somewhat famous, but I’ve been using it as my main source of music discovery these days. It’s hard to avoid the gravitational pull of the Spotify algorithm - I feel like everyone’s Discover Weekly is starting to sound like every natural wine bar in east Los Angeles. I mainly use SoundCloud to find hour-long mixes from musicians/labels I follow, check out The Lot Radio, DancefloorFC and Lloyd.   

Plane or train?

Train! I used to take the Amtrak every week from DC to New York for many years when we started expanding sweetgreen.  You can’t compare it to the trains in Europe or Japan, but I have a special place in my heart for the Acela corridor.  

What is one place everyone should visit? 

Hokkaido, Japan.  The snow there feels like someone is hiding in the clouds sifting powdered sugar on top of a mountain.  Great place to visit if you’re a skier or snowboarder.  Not to mention the apres lifestyle of hot soba noodles, ice-cold beer, and Japanese onsen bath culture after a long day on the mountain.

Tell us the story of a rabbit hole you fell deep into

So many rabbit holes…A good friend recently had the honor to DJ George Clinton’s 80th birthday in Los Angeles. To help him out, I spent a few days scouring the internet for rare funk and disco records that he could play for the Prime Minister of Funk.  Happy to report it was a successful gig! (NR

Thanks for reading,

Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN) & Nathaniel (NR) 

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